Thunder-Trail Blazers Preview
The Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder have been
scoring at an incredibly high rate, but coach Scott Brooks was
thrilled with what he saw from his team on the defensive end in its
Portland Trail Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales would like to
see his club make a push back into the playoff picture.
The Thunder go for a fourth consecutive victory Tuesday night at
the Rose Garden, where the Trail Blazers try to split the four-game
season series with their first set of back-to-back wins in more
than two months.
Among the league leaders with 103.6 points per game, Oklahoma
City (37-12) has averaged 122.0 during its winning streak while
shooting 53.2 percent.
Led by 28 points from Kevin Durant and 19 apiece from Serge
Ibaka and James Harden, the Thunder made 52.7 percent of their
shots in Sunday’s 103-87 victory over Miami.
Oklahoma City’s season-best 13 steals helped it score 28 points
off 21 Heat turnovers. The Thunder have 31 steals and 19 blocks
since their last loss.
“When we’re getting into a defensive stance and all four guys
are in that stance and one guy on the ball, there are not a lot of
opportunities to score in the paint, and that’s how we want to
play,” Brooks told the Thunder’s official website.
Maintaining that defensive intensity could be crucial as the
Thunder are targeting the league’s best record and home-court
advantage throughout the playoffs. Oklahoma City could make a
strong case for that spot if it fares well in upcoming games
against the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago, Memphis, Miami and
The Thunder, though, can’t overlook the 12th-place Trail Blazers
Portland hasn’t won two in a row since Jan. 23-24, but the club
continues its three-game homestand with plenty of confidence
following Sunday’s 90-87 victory over Golden State. The Blazers
rallied from seven down at halftime to improve to 3-3 since Canales
replaced the fired Nate McMillan.
“We talk about resolve and I felt like guys responded tonight,”
Canales said. “LaMarcus (Aldridge) made huge plays down the
stretch. He had a big shot (with 39.9 seconds left), but more than
that, he made the right reads and plays tonight.”
Aldridge has made plenty of plays in three games versus Oklahoma
City in 2011-12, averaging a team-best 28.0 points.
The first-time All-Star finished with a season-high 39 points in
a 111-107 overtime loss on Feb. 6 in the Thunder’s lone visit to
Portland this season. However, it was a goaltending call on
Aldridge – one the league later called incorrect – on Durant’s
layup attempt with six seconds left in regulation that got the most
Aside from Durant, who’s averaging 33.3 points, 11.7 rebounds
and 6.0 assists over the last three games, Portland’s front line of
Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and center Joel Przybilla will want to keep
a close eye on Ibaka.
Ibaka is averaging 14.0 points per game with 9.0 boards and 3.0
blocks during the winning streak, while center Kendrick Perkins has
28 points and 11 rebounds in the last two contests.
Russell Westbrook, tied with Durant with a team-best 78 points
versus Portland this season, scored 28 with 11 boards and eight
assists on Feb. 6 to help Oklahoma City snap Portland’s five-game
home winning streak.
Blazers point guard Raymond Felton, who missed that game with a
sprained left foot, scored 19 of his season-best 24 points in the
second half Sunday.